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Check our COVID-19 Guide for updates on Library services and resources.

Blackboard @ RDC

This guide will help you use Blackboard for your courses at Red Deer College.

How to Learn Online

Tips and Strategies

Recent events have forced students to adjust in unanticipated ways. Classes have moved online and many students are taking social distancing or self-isolating measures. It’s important to take care of yourself and be flexible with yourself and others. Routines have changed. With the transition of moving coursework to an online platform, you will need to find ways to create structure for yourself in order to succeed as an online learner. You will also need to recognize that you, your classmates, and your instructors will have to be patient and work together during this time. 

If your classes don't require you to be online at a specific time, you may not feel the need to structure your life around your coursework. Try to develop new strategies and adjust your strengths to complete your assignments and prepare for tests and exams. 

Develop Habits to Manage your Workload

Treat an online course like a “real” course by devoting consistent chunks of time to the class. Online courses are attractive to students because they offer flexibility in learning. However, this flexibility can sometimes cause students to delay working through the course material, thinking they’ll find time later in the week. Online coursework requires you to make the time for it. 

  • Review the syllabus for each of your courses. Using a calendar or term planner, create mini-deadlines for completing your assignments to avoid last minute rushes.
  • Using a weekly schedule, plan consistent blocks of time during the week that you can devote to coursework. Stick to this schedule. Don’t fall into the temptation to procrastinate. It is important to establish a consistent routine.
  • Make daily “to do” lists to assign priorities to each of your tasks. 

Avoid Procrastination

If you find yourself procrastinating, sometimes it just means you are unmotivated, but it could also mean you are overwhelmed. For small tasks, it's important to think long-term. Do your small tasks contribute to your long-term goal? Work on smaller tasks for at least five minutes. Often, this will help you find the momentum you need to complete a task. If your task is a regular weekly task, plan to do it at the same time each week. For bigger tasks, break them down into small, manageable chunks. Don't expect perfection, and make sure you ask for help. 

Set Up a Productive Workspace

When creating your study environment, ask yourself:

  • Do you have enough space to spread out your textbooks and notes?
  • Do you have enough light?
  • Is your chair comfortable?
  • Have you removed distractions (e.g. cell phone, TV, etc.)?
  • Is it too noisy, or too quiet?
  • Is your space cluttered or not tidy enough?

Prepare for Class

When accessing online classes, prepare your mind the same way you would for face-to-face classes. Think about what space is right for you and take time to organize it. 

  • Prepare your study space by having necessary materials (pens, papers, textbooks, etc.) easily accessible.
  • Set up an appropriate study space that is separate from your "home space" (if possible).
  • Make sure to have a charger handy and situate yourself close to a power outlet. Sit at a desk, table, or counter instead of on your couch or bed (if possible).  
  • Use a mouse and separate screen, if available.  
  • Dress the same way you would for an in-person class. This often gives you a sense of purpose and helps you differentiate between home and class.

Develop a Routine

Align your routine with that of your family members and fellow housemates, to allow you to study effectively with minimal interruptions. By sharing your schedule, this will inform others when you are in class or studying. 

If you can't ensure a quiet space while you are attending (synchronous) online classes, remember to mute your microphone so you don't disturb others. You can always switch your microphone on when you need to speak. 

Having a structured space will help you to stay focused during your online class time.

Students are doing more reading online through digital devices than they ever have before. It's important to develop online reading strategies to ensure that you are engaging deeply with the digital text in the same way you would when reading information printed on paper.

Those who prefer to read print material often have a more interactive, linear experience because they can flip pages, remember where information was located on a page, highlight, and write in margins. Digital reading, however, is non-linear because it takes place on a flat screen. Digital reading often takes more self-control and focus to navigate through hyperlinked information. 

The key to getting yourself to read deeply in any reading format is to ensure you focus, engage, recall, and reflect.

Focus

Focus and organize main ideas. Often instructors will list learning objectives to help you focus on key ideas that are being taught.  Think about:

  • Why am I being asked to read this?
  • What am I supposed to get out of this?
  • How will I remember what I just read?

Engage

Engage with the text in meaningful ways. In a digital world, it is important to disrupt the pattern of skipping around and getting lost in the big wide world of the Internet. Break down complex text for yourself and develop a system for taking notes, whether using pen and paper or your device. You may be able to use a "notes" feature on your device so you can take notes and highlight while you read the text. 

Recall

Recall information in a way that enables you to understand the material, respond to it, and remember it. Check your recall as you go along; one way to do this is by reading aloud. You may find that other methods, like writing brief summary notes, also help with recall. Synthesizing and summarizing the material in your own words ensures that you understand the material and have given it deep thought.  

Reflect

Reflect on what you've learned. When you've finished reading, review the material you highlighted or jotted down. Reflect on key words you identified and any questions you have. Reflect on how you might need this information or knowledge in the future. Will you be tested on it? Will you have to complete an assignment or write an essay?

The important point of reading, whether it is through digital or print, is to ensure you have a deep understanding and ability to remember the material. This document describes effective reading strategy to help you make the most of your reading.

When writing online exams, it is important to review and understand the format of the exam. Make sure you understand the format of the exam, type of exam, specifications, required software, and the time allotted. Some exams may be timed. Exams may be scheduled at a particular time or open for a range of time, from a few hours to a few days. If you are unsure, ask your instructor. 

Technology Considerations

When preparing for and writing an online exam be sure to:

  • Check your device, Internet connection, and browser
  • Master the process to access and login to the exam
  • Learn how to navigate through the exam
  • Know what you need to do after you have finished answering the questions (e.g. save your answers, submit your exam, etc.)

If your exam is only open for a few hours, you should prepare as you would for an in-person exam. Create some practice exams by using old assignments or tests; practice writing them under time constraints to practice your recall of information.  

If your exam is "open book," be sure to spend time prior to the exam to organize your notes and resources so you can easily find information when needed. This will prevent you from wasting time.

If your exam is open for a few days, treat it like a final project or essay. Before the exam is released, do some research and preparation. Be sure to budget time before you start your exam to do an outline. Before you submit the exam, budget time to proofread and edit your work.

For further support with exam preparation, check out additional resources here.